Saturday, March 25, 2017

Get On Board Enabled Me to Get on a Board (and Stay There)

By: Laura Lieberman

One of my favorite things about the Junior League of Washington is that it has helped me develop skills that have allowed me to enhance my usefulness in the areas in which I volunteer, allowing me to take my involvement to “the next level.” For example, my first-year community experience participation with Iona Senior Services led me to be the Meals on Wheels coordinator for my church. But another major example that stands out for me is participating in Get On Board.

When the first Get On Board class was announced in spring 2015, I’d just been recently nominated to serve on the board of directors for the Lee-Fendall House Museum and Garden. The Executive Director, John Christiansen, had nominated me because he believed that my volunteer experience (the museum is my Historic Alexandria Docents placement) would provide insight for the board’s governance. I was pretty nervous about this, so I thought taking the Get On Board classes would help.

And they did! My nomination to the board was approved right about the same time as the first Get On Board class, so the timing was perfect. Through the span of four lessons, I was exposed to a lot of important information, such as a board member’s responsibilities, optimal relationships between the board and the executive director, what documents a board member should access and familiarize herself with, and how to identify problems within an organization’s board.

The material taught was all useful, but learning the proper role of a board member in a tight-knit organization has proved to be particularly helpful for my own situation. The Lee-Fendall operates on a small scale—small staff, small group of volunteers, and small board. Because I’m also a volunteer, it can be easy for these roles to overlap. However, learning how to keep my involvement in these two positions separate from the beginning has been a good way to enjoy being engaged without overstepping boundaries.

The course was also a good way to learn more about nonprofit governance generally. Coming out of the sessions, I felt much more knowledgeable about the structure of both nonprofit board and staff. Additionally, I definitely recommend the program for anyone who is on (or is considering) the Targeted Grants and Volunteer Resources Committee—learning about the elements of a stable organization can be helpful when reviewing grant application documents.

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